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Rutgers to administer coronavirus booster shots, bring back more in-person work

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In light of evidence suggesting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine's effectiveness wanes over time, the University will be offering booster shots at its vaccination sites. – Photo by Pixabay.com

Rutgers will be offering coronavirus disease (COVID-19) booster shots at its vaccination sites in the near future, said Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Brian L. Strom at a COVID-19 health briefing yesterday.

He said in light of new evidence that suggests the effectiveness of vaccines lessens over time, federal officials have recommended booster vaccinations.

The Pfizer vaccine booster shot is likely to be recommended starting on Sept. 20, and the Moderna vaccine will likely follow a few weeks after. Though, Strom said it is too soon to discuss any plans to require booster shots at the University.

Antonio M. Calcado, executive vice president for strategic planning and operations, discussed the University’s plan to return employees to in-person work. 

He said despite some employees not wanting to return to work, it is necessary due to the lack of sustainable infrastructure to support working from home. Working remotely has consequences for both productivity and mental health, with several employees reporting feeling overworked, Calcado said.

“We do not want anyone to be working 12-hour days because they're working from home, and it's just convenient, as the computer’s there, and they sit down, and they do it,” he said.

Calcado said that Vivian Fernández, senior vice president for human resources and organizational effectiveness, is leading a presidential task force on the future of work at Rutgers. The task force aims to present recommendations for work to University President Jonathan Holloway by the end of the spring semester, he said.

“You'll hear a lot more about where the future of work is going over the course of the next nine months,” Calcado said. “We have to pull apart everything we've ever done, and then put it back together as lessons learned to understand what we can do and how we can do it well in a different remote environment.”

Strom then addressed questions regarding the availability of COVID-19 testing on campus, specifically for asymptomatic individuals who may want to be tested. He said the University’s testing sites are still open and operating, but they have moved away from surveillance testing for those who are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.

This is because the delta variant has caused a greater prevalence of inaccurate results in rapid testing, which can provide people false reassurance and actually increase virus transmission, Strom said. Nonetheless, weekly surveillance testing for unvaccinated students with medical or religious exemptions will continue, he said.

Strom said Rutgers has been doing well with maintaining low COVID-19 positivity rates, with the most recent being 0.84 percent, compared to the statewide rate of 5.4 percent.

“At this point, if you look at the state of New Jersey, the safest place you probably can be is on the Rutgers campus,” he said.

The University currently requires indoor masking and social distancing unless in a private space and will continue to follow New Jersey public health guidelines for events going forward, Calcado said.


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